One of the largest diplomatic conference centres in the world, the Palace of Nations in Geneva hosts about 9,000 meetings and 28,000 delegates every year. When it came time to renovate the 4,000-square-metre interior, which dates back to the founding of the League of Nations in 1929, Milan-based architecture firm PEIA Associati employed the malleable material engineered by Wood-Skin, the Italian company known for its “patented digital fabrication process able to translate any design into a one-of-a-kind, self-structured, three-dimensional surface.”
For the Palace of Nations’ Assembly Hall, whose renovation was funded by the Qatari government, the point of departure was sand dunes – a ceiling of shifting planes “counterbalanced by the starry sky of the nations below.”
Only millimetres thick, the evocative surface was realized with triangular tiles in the Mesh Sheets product line. The material face is warm and lightweight okume wood. Weighing five tonnes and covering 1,000 square metres, the drop-ceiling membrane is suspended from a “forest of thin steel cables…with a density 70 per cent lower than traditional systems.”
The ceiling integrates many systems – from lighting (by Flos) to AV, video projection, robotic cameras and sensors. Together with the walls, also draped in Mesh Sheets (rectangular in shape), it also contributes to the room’s acoustic performance. In fact, Wood-Skin employed its parametric modelling software to form the 3-D membrane in just the right way to meet sound requirements, including handling high and low frequencies. The textile backing on Wood-Skin also diffuses noise.
Overall, the effect is both graphic and warm, digital and organic – demonstrating an effective use of a single material to meet a variety of functional and aesthetic needs.
The faceted material clads the dome and walls of the Assembly Hall of the UN Palace in Geneva, which has just been redesigned by the Italian architectural firm PEIA Associati.